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     IT was with real regret that our little friends parted from the good barge people and their floating home, as well as from the beautiful city of Rouen, where they had seen so much, and had such a good time.

     Germaine, who had not been before in a big railway station, was somewhat bewildered at the confusion about her, while Jean, who had been once to Mantes, was proud to be able to explain things to her. The tall man in a blue uniform was the station-master, and one could always tell him from the other blue-uniformed officials, because he wore a white cap. It was his duty to send off the trains, which he  by blowing a small whistle, after which some one rings a hand-bell that sounds like a dinner-bell, and off goes the train.

       The men who were pushing luggage around on small hand-trucks were the porters, in blue blouses like any French working man, except they were belted in at the waist by a broad band of red and black stripes.

       Presently the station-master whistled off their train. “Keep a sharp lookout,” said Uncle Daboll, “and, as soon as we leave this tunnel we are now going through, look out on the right side and you will have a fine view of the city.”

       Sure enough, in a few minutes they were on the bridge, crossing the river, and before them stretched out a panorama of Rouen, with a jumble of factory chimneys and church spires, and rising above all the grand three-towered cathedral.

      Perhaps American children might like to know what French trains are like; they are so different from theirs in every way. To begin with, there are first, second and third class cars, — carriages, they are called, — and each carriage is divided into compartments, each compartment holding six persons in the first class, three on each side, and eight persons in the second, and in the third class, five on a side— ten in all. There is a door and two small windows in each end of a compartment.

      The first and second classes have cushioned seats, but there are only wooden benches in the third. In many of the third class the divisions between the compartments are not carried up to the roof, and one can look over and see who his neighbours may be. The people who travel third class on French railways are a very sociable lot, and every one soon gets to talking. A French third class carriage under these conditions is the liveliest place you were ever in, especially when the train stops at a town on market-day and many people are about, as they were on this occasion.

      Well! Such a hubbub, and such a time as they had getting all their various baskets and belongings in with them.

      The big ruddy-faced women pulled themselves in with great difficulty, for these trains are high from the ground and hard to get into, especially when one has huge baskets on one’s arm, and innumerable boxes and bundles are being pushed in after one by friends.

      The men come with farming tools, bags of potatoes, and their big sabots, all taking up a lot of room.

      One tall stout woman, with a basket in either hand, got stuck in the doorway until Uncle Daboll gave her a helping hand and her friends pushed her from the outside. She finally plumped down on a seat quite out of breath, when from under the cover of one basket two ducks’ heads appeared with a loud “quack, quack, quack.” “Ah, my beauties, get back,” and she tapped them playfully and shut the lid down, but out popped their heads again with another series of” quacks,” just like a double jack-in-the-box. How the children laughed, and that made them all friends at once.

      Germaine offered to hold one of her baskets, for there was not a bit of room in the overhead racks, or anywhere else. When she took it on her knee, she thought she saw a gleam of bright eyes through the cracks, and sure enough it was full of little white rabbits.

      The old woman, seeing her interest, let her stroke their sensitive little ears, while she told how she had bought them at a bon marché, a good bargain, and was taking them home to her grandchild, just Germaine’s age.

      Next to her were two women who were evidently carrying on some dispute that had begun early in the day, and each was bent on having the last word. So their talk went on, an endless stream, while the fat woman sat by and laughed at them both. Perhaps no wonder one of them was cross. She looked every little while at a big basket of eggs she carried, some of which were broken, and with small wonder, it would seem to inexperienced eyes, for they were packed in the basket without anything between them. When she found one badly broken, she swallowed it, as much as to say, “That is safe anyway,” and then she would talk faster than ever.

      Uncle Daboll talked to the man next him about market prices, and the cider crop, and what a fine fruit year it was. One had only to look out at the orchards they were passing to see the truth of this, for the apple-trees were so full of fruit that branches had to be propped up with poles to keep them from breaking down.

      In the next compartment a party of four  were playing dominoes, one of the women who was with them having spread out her apron for a table.

      Another party was evidently making up for a meal they had lost, while doing business.  The mother took from a basket a part of a big loaf, from which she cut slices and distributed them, with a bit of cheese, to her party, at the same time passing around a jug of cider.

      There was an exciting time when one of the chickens escaped from a market-basket and had to be chased all over the carriage. Such a clattering of tongues, flapping of wings, and distressful clucks from the poor fowl, which was at last caught just as she was about to fly out of a window, were never heard before.

     The chattering was increased by elaborate good-byes, as one by one the passengers dropped off at the small stations. No one grumbled at having to help sort out the luggage each time, but cheerfully and politely helped disentangle the belongings of the departing ones, and carefully helped to lift the baskets on to the platform, amid profuse thanks, where more friends and relations met them, and there was as much kissing on both cheeks as if they had been on a long journey instead of merely to market.

      At one of the stops Germaine noticed a woman, holding a horn and a small red flag, standing by the sliding gates, where the road crossed the railway. She had seen these women before along the line, and her uncle explained that the railway is fenced in on either side by hedges or wire fencing, and wherever a road or street crossed, there are gates, which must be kept closed while trains are passing. Not only must the gatekeeper, who is generally a woman, have the gates tight shut, but she must also stand beside them like a soldier at his post, with her brass horn in one hand and a red flag, rolled up, in the other, showing that she is prepared for any emergency. If she were not there, the engineer of the passing train would report it to headquarters, and she would doubtless be dismissed. The gatekeeper lives in a neat cottage adjoining, and some minutes before each train is due she takes the horn and flag from where they hang on the wall, and is at her post. 

     At the station were M. and Madame Lafond to welcome them home, and you can imagine how everybody talked at once, and how muck there was to tell. The fête at Rouen was the topic of conversation until its glories paled before Petit Andelys’ own special fête, which was held some weeks after, and which our little friends, with true French patriotism, thought the finest in the world, not excepting the more elaborate affair at Rouen.

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